A woman sells monkey meat on a street in Congo Brazzaville.A woman sells monkey meat on a street in Congo Brazzaville.
By PHILIP ONYANGO, in Brazzaville

The sight of a man feasting on monkey meat can be disgusting to many Kenyans but not so for residents of this central African country.

Monkey meat has been a delicacy for the Congolese since time immemorial and features prominently in meals.

I had to see it to believe it, now that I am in Congo Brazzaville covering the All Africa games.

Monkey meat is all over town, from market places to restaurants and roadsides. You can have it as nyama choma, boiled or fried.

And as they say, if you go to Rome, do what the Romans do. I sampled monkey choma on the roadside but the stuff could not go beyond the mouth.

THREW UP

I rushed to the bush and threw up the little I had swallowed.

For Mr Nguero  Bobando, a resident, this is an ordinary delicacy and is a must-eat, especially during special occasions.

Enter Congolese athlete Kabeto Makenga. He is taking part in the games.

“I have been eating monkey meat since  childhood. I like it so much that any meal without it would be incomplete,” he tells me.

He adds that if he does not eat the meat for a week, he gets seriously sick.

According to Mrs Salma Bobando, who sells the meat on Brazzaville streets, a whole monkey can fetch  between  20,000 to 40,000 francs (Sh2,800 to Sh5,600), depending on the season.

She says the meat can also be sold in smaller pieces.

The pieces fetch different prices, depending on the part of the monkey.

During dry spells, hunters, mostly based in northern Congo, find it difficult to get the animals and that means prices shoot up.

SCRAMBLE FOR MEAT

When the meat arrives at the market, residents scramble for it.

“The hunters shoot them dead and then bring the carcasses to the market,” she says.

While monkey meat is popular among the Congolese living here, Mrs Bobando says it is not so for chimpanzee and baboon meat.

“The meat from those animals is not liked by city residents but some tribes in the north love it,” she says.

In Kenya, women from certain ethnic communities are barred from eating osome kinds of meat.

Monkey meat, also known as likaku in Lingala, is eaten by men, women or children.

Kenyan, Ugandan and Tanzanian athletes and others from other countries who saw monkey meat being sold in the open in Brazzaville immediately stopped ordering meat at the athletes’ dining hall.

One of them is Mercy Namlyongo from Uganda.

“I will feed on chicken and fish until I return home. I just can’t imagine eating a monkey,” she says when I catch up with her at the Olympic Stadium in Kintele.

Similar sentiments are echoed by a Kenyan handball player, Mitchell Oyoo.

He says the sight of monkey meat being sold openly made her lose her appetite. She has been surviving on drinks.

“This is strange. To feed on a primate is something beyond comprehension,” says Oyoo, one of Kenya’s finest handball players.